Monday March 19, 2018
Home World Employers Loo...

Employers Look to Fill Seasonal Jobs, Advocates Look to Protect Workers in US

Toribio Jimenez lies on his bed in his basement bedroom of the home where he and 10 other people live in Nashville, Tenn, Sept. 3, 2009. Jimenez was given a job removing asbestos in the U.S. through the H2-B nonagricultural guest worker program. The job was not the job that was promised to him through the program, and after being fired, Jimenez said he now has no option but to work illegally so he can pay back the money he borrowed to make the trip to the U.S. VOA

You may have noticed: Much of the recent anti-immigration rhetoric in Washington most loudly comes from factions on the political right: H1B, H2B, it’s all about protecting American jobs.

But every step of the way, progressive groups — while pro-immigrant — are just as critical of foreign worker visas. Federal regulations on the books, they argue, are inherently insufficient to protect visa holders from abuse, whether through unwarranted recruitment fees, misrepresentation of job requirements, fraud or intimidation.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

The issue plagues potential recruits, but also well-meaning businesses that can’t find enough Americans willing to take seasonal jobs. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts and other areas of the country whose economic models are centered on five-to-six-month tourist seasons, the work of H2B visa-holders becomes essential to business owners.

Tyler Hayes, vice president of Cape Cod Restaurants, says his seasonal businesses — including Flying Bride Restaurant, shown here in April — would suffer without H-2B workers. After 20 years in the business, he says the children of foreign workers have begun to work for them. (R. Taylor/VOA)

Employers worry, too

Tyler Hayes, vice president of Cape Cod Restaurants, says he is fortunate that his seasonal foreign workforce, mainly from Jamaica, has created a “family atmosphere” during his 20-year tenure with the company.

“Now, their children are coming in, working for us,” Hayes said.

But while Hayes can only point to the well-being of his own workforce, he acknowledges that at least in recent years, abuse of workers has not been inconceivable.

“There used to be these companies that would send out these big petitions,” Hayes recalled. “They bring in 100 or 200 people, get them in the country and then farm them out.”

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

In response, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cracked down on abuse within the H2B system in 2015, both in order to prevent the exploitation of workers and to ensure U.S. workers’ awareness of available jobs.

Are regulations enough?

Elizabeth Mauldin, policy director at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) — the Center for Migrant Rights — calls those protections basic, including the right to receive a contract before entering the U.S. and protection from being charged a recruitment fee.

But many aspects of those existing regulations, she argues, are difficult to ensure, absent greater transparency in the recruitment process.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“It’s impossible to enforce a ban on charging workers fees,” Mauldin told VOA. “When workers are charged fees upfront, they are vulnerable to the same type of economic coercion across the board.” As a result, she notes, foreign workers become susceptible to wage theft and other abuses, regardless of their visa category.

Afraid to report

A 2013 report issued by CDM, whose findings were based on a survey and in-depth interviews with hundreds of H2B workers, found that 58 percent of respondents reported paying illegal recruitment fees, while 10 percent reported recruitment fraud — having paid a fee for a nonexistent job.

While there are mechanisms in place for foreign workers to report abuse, Mauldin argues that the disincentives are often too great.

“[Abusive employers] will say, at the end of the season, ‘If you pay those fees, then we will be more likely to recruit you in the future,’ or ‘If you don’t report these violations, then our recruiter will choose you again next year,’” Mauldin said.

Jane Nichols Bishop, who goes by the nickname “Mama Visa,” helps local companies secure annual H2B visas. “I like to joke and say we have more great white sharks than I have workers looking for a job on Cape Cod,” she says. VOA

Jane Nichols Bishop, founder and president of Peak Season Workforce, a family-run company that helps Cape Cod-area businesses secure H2B visas, says the mechanisms in place to prevent exploitation, including audits by the Department of Labor, have largely worked. But in cases where they do not, she says it’s in everyone’s interest that the infractions are reported.

“If there are abuses, we would like to see them caught,” Nichols said. “They give everyone who does this and who works at this very successfully a very bad name.”

Workers empower themselves

Despite ongoing reports of abuse nationwide, there is some hope for affected foreigners outside of federal regulations, thanks to the internet. A bilingual workers’ rights initiative, which Mauldin calls the Yelp for migrant workers, allows workers to review recruiters and share their experiences, and create a self-empowering community in the process. (VOA)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Washington Becomes First State to Approve Net-neutrality Rules

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks after signing a bill, March 5, 2018, in Olympia, Washington, that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the FCC's recent repeal of Obama-era rules. VOA

Washington became the first state Monday to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or impairing traffic.

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,” Gov. Jay Inslee said before signing the measure that lawmakers passed with bipartisan support. “We know how important this is.”

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

ALSO READ: What will be the Fate of Net Neutrality after Being Repealed?

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits.

Inslee said he was confident of its legality, saying “the states have a full right to protect their citizens.” Pixabay

Oregon law has not been signed

The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance, and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

While several states introduced similar measures this year seeking to protect net neutrality, only Oregon and Washington passed bills. But Oregon’s measure wouldn’t put any new requirements on internet providers.

It would stop state agencies from buying internet service from any company that blocks or prioritizes specific content or apps, starting in 2019. It’s unclear when Oregon’s measure would be signed into law.

Washington state was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that sued in January to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the move in Congress.

Governors in five states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont — have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Zuckerberg in favor of 100 percent net neutrality

Expect new rules by mid-June

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision would harm innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring. Washington’s law will take effect mid-June.

Messages left with the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which opposed the bill, were not immediately returned. (VOA)